A record-setting performance by junior running back Le’Veon Bell and a lockdown performance from the Spartans defense has MSU back in postseason play.
The MSU football team (6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) clinched bowl-eligibility Saturday night when they traveled to Minnesota (6-6, 2-6) and beat the Golden Gophers 26-10 in the regular season finale.
MSU has made a bowl game in each of Mark Dantonio’s previous five season as head coach.
Bell bulldozed defenders from start to finish on his way to rushing for a career-high 266 yards, the sixth-highest total in MSU history, along with a touchdown.
The Spartans defense equaled Bell’s dominance, holding Minnesota to 96 total yards, along with four interceptions, two by senior cornerback Johnny Adams and one apiece from junior cornerback Darqueze Dennard and redshirt freshman safety RJ Williamson.
Adams first intercepted Minnesota on the game’s opening possession, and his 11-yard return gave MSU the ball in Minnesota territory, setting up a 48-yard field goal from senior kicker Dan Conroy to give MSU an early 3-0 lead.
MSU used another three-and-out from its defense to gain good field position for the offense’s second possession, but Conroy was unable to connect on a 42-yard field goal, keeping the score at 3-0.
With Minnesota’s offense struggling to find rhythm, the Golden Gophers defense helped them get on the scoreboard when junior linebacker Aaron Hill picked off Andrew Maxwell and returned the interception 33 yards for a touchdown, putting Minnesota in front 7-3.
Maxwell finished the game completing 13-of-29 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The touchdown pass came on a fluke play to junior receiver Bennie Fowler, when a pass intended for sophomore receiver Tony Lippett deflected off his hands and into the hands of Fowler who ran 41 yards for a touchdown to give MSU a 13-7 halftime lead.
It was all MSU in the second half, with Conroy connecting on a pair of field goals and Bell putting the game out of reach with an eight-yard touchdown run with 7:25 remaining that set the game’s final score.